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Cambodian Muslims Worry as Tensions Climb in Middle East

A man purported to be Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh is seen standing in a cage in this still image from an undated video filmed at an undisclosed location made available on social media on Feb. 3, 2015.

Members of Cambodia’s Muslim community say they fear increased animosity across the Middle East, with the recent murder of a Jordanian pilot by militants and Jordan’s announcement it will execute two members of the group currently in prison.

Cambodian Muslims say even though they are far from the region and its strife, they remain concerned for the spread of violence.

“I’m afraid that war will spread in the Middle East, and no one will be safe,” Ahmad Yahya, head of the Khmer-Islam Development Association, said.

Ysa Osman, a Cambodian Muslim living in Phnom Penh, said it had been horrible to see the pilot, Moaz Al Kasabeh, burned alive by ISIS, who released a video of the killing, but he also appealed to all sides to avoid all-out war. “War is never easy to finish,” he said.

Cambodia’s Muslim population has generally stayed out of the post-911 radical movements in Southeast Asia and beyond.

In 2003, authorities learned that Hambali, the leader behind the 2002 Bali bombings, had sought refuge in Cambodia, before he was arrested in Bangkok.

In 2011, two Bangladeshi men and one Nepalese man were arrested and convicted of plotting al-Qaeda-inspired bombings of Western embassies in Phnom Penh.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld their convictions and sentences, of up to eight years in prison, for the plots.